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Posted on Feb 5, 2022 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

One book – hours of World War II adventures!  Bismarck Solitaire Book -Game  Review

One book – hours of World War II adventures! Bismarck Solitaire Book -Game Review

Rick Martin

Bismarck Solitaire Book- Game Review.  Publisher: Worthington Publishing   Designer:  Mike Wylie, Sean Cooke and Grant Wylie  Price $29.95

Passed Inspection:  full solo experience, easy to learn but difficult to master, multiple skill levels as each scenario gets more challenging if played in order, multiple strategies  to win, good  A/I, the whole game is in the book – you just need a photocopier, dice and a pencil, perfect for trips or to pay in the car

Failed Basic: would have loved an advanced game with more detail

Worthington Publishing’s Bismarck Solitaire is, to put it simply, a brilliant game.  The game is a book and the book is the game.  The book is 58 pages with 4 pages of rules, 2 pages of example play and important game concepts.  The other 52 pages are scenarios, the game’s artificial intelligence charts (called “Event Charts”) and the history of the campaigns in the North Atlantic.

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Bismarck

The artwork and graphic design work on the game are first rate.  Each scenario includes a map of the North Atlantic as well as special rules which apply and on the opposite page are a series of tables broken down by position on the map and including die rolls to determine what the British do while they try and get shipping through and hunt the Axis ships.  Before you start playing, I recommend you photocopy the scenario map and grab 2 six sided dice.  You’ll also need a pen or pencil so that you can chart your course on the photocopied scenarios.

The Axis ships are the Bismarck (duh  – like maybe the game wasn’t called Bismarck Solitaire), the Prince Eugen and a flotilla of 3 U-Boats.  You control these ships and U-Boats.  Each one is rated for firepower, hull points, speed and extra fuel for making steam and getting an increased movement for one turn.

The first thing you’ll do after reading the well thought out and logically presented rule section.  Then you pick a scenario.  If you are learning the game play the training cruise to get your sea legs.  You can then either play the scenarios in order or play a random scenario.  The game is what’s called a “legacy game” which means that if you play the scenarios in order and you sink the Ark Royal in one scenario, it is now out of action for the rest of the scenarios.  Each scenario has a place to mark enemy ships that have been sunk.  As the scenarios progress, the British are more and more aggressive in their quest to sunk your ships and U-Boats and, consequently, the scenarios become more difficult to win.

Event Chart and Search Board
Event Charts

The game has no counters.  You mark positions on the map which is called the “Search Board”.  As you can see from the pictures, there is plenty of doubling back so its probably best to use a pencil to mark you movement.

The turn sequence is as follows:

Roll 2 dice to determine which Event Chart is used for each of your vessels.  Note that you can spread your ships out to take different courses or have them grouped.  Your U-Boats start in a wolf pack of three but they are quick to take damage.  The positions of your ships are reflected on the Event Charts and if your ships are in an area marked for an event, it happens.  It’s always good to study the Event Charts – plot where the expected shipping lanes are and to also scout for where your resupply ships may be if you time it right.

Resolve any air attacks on your ships or U-Boats.

If your U-Boats have made contact with the enemy, resolve the combat.

Resolve any surface ship combat.

Move your ships and U-Boats and resolve any event effects on movement such as storms.

Mark the end of the turn.  See if you have achieved victory or been defeated. Wash, rinse, repeat if the scenario isn’t over.

The turn sequence quickly becomes second nature and is printed on each scenario for ease of play.

Game Play on the Search Board

Combat is swift and efficient.  When either you or the British attack,  roll a die.  A 1-3 is a hit and takes away one of the target’s hull points while a 4 – 6 are a miss.  Each vessel is rated for how many dice they roll for combat.  Then you roll to see if the British attempt to get away.  You can also modify your tactics and the number of attack dice you roll by choosing to close with the enemy, choosing to try long range combat  or trying to escape.  But pick wisely, because your tactics are not guaranteed to work and you may end up taking more damage from a British attack.

While I have seen some criticism by a few gamers who scoff at the simplicity of the combat, I find it perfectly fits the scope of what the designers intended.  This isn’t meant to be a highly detailed analysis of North Atlantic naval combat.  It’s a quick game with a very small footprint intended to be a pleasant diversion.  It also teaches the player about the history of the Bismarck and the actions in the North Atlantic.  I played one game at a doctor’s office while waiting on my girlfriend’s child to be seen by the doctor.

Starting a Scenario

I would love to see some advanced rules released to add more detail to the game which may please the those who scoffed at it.

As it stands, Bismarck Solitaire is a perfectly fun, highly addictive and immensely replayable game.  I can’t wait to see more of this type released.

Armchair General Rating:  96% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 5

(1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  Currently Rick is designing T34 Leader for DVG.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

1 Comment

  1. Great Review! I was one of the old original Wargame Players back in the ’60s. I enjoyed your review for the game and am not trying to get my hands on it!

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